I laugh in the face of an early start (this will come back to bite me fairly soon afterwards) so a 5am taxi didn’t seem like a particular problem. Never mind that it was a last resort, but the combination of an early Sunday morning flight (no Piccadilly line and no Heathrow Express because of Crossrail works) and two suitcases (preventing the inevitable running that comes with catching a night bus) had decided matters. By 8.45am I’d left England’s green and pleasant land, and was chasing the dawn across the world. Strong headwinds gave us a longer flight than normal, but for me this just meant an extra hour of the already 4-hour long dawn “golden hour” where the light is so perfect it almost hurts. One movie, and half of one delicious United Airlines meal later (hmm) and I had to give in and watch the light as we passed over the frozen mountains of Greenland, and later northern Canada. For the first time in months I had the chance to let my mind stretch its legs and go freeform. Light really is astonishing like that.
The first major surprise of the day came as we landed in Newark airport, and the captain announced a local temperature of 70F/21C. In December. Confused.com. I stood on the platform for a good half hour awaiting the NJ Transit train to NY Penn, in a T-SHIRT! No kidding. The t-shirt in question had a useful conversation-starting slogan (“Not everything is #000000 and #FFFFFF) and I began talking to strangers.
However, the highlight of the day was, inevitably, my first ever trip to Madison Square Garden and my first ever live Rangers game. I haven’t yet developed the ability to measure distances in City blocks, but 17 blocks north and 3 blocks east seemed pretty easy to me so I walked. In a t-shirt. But I’m the crazy English kid that walks everywhere. The new MSG is GLORIOUS, although admittedly I got some strange looks when I squeaked with excitement ascending the tower to my seats. The dancing may also have been a factor. It didn’t make me any friends. Catching the last few minutes of the warmup reminded me of the Arena in Shefffield, when I’d deliberately turn up early to watch the guys skate and see how they were looking. I gotta say, I was more excited for myself being there than I was by the energy on the ice, but perhaps after 7 lacklustre games at home this 8th would be the ones where our fortunes changed. It didn’t start well. Rangers went 1-down and I learned how vocal the US crowds are, particularly in the upper tiers of seating! Thankfully after pulling one back to end the first 1-1, a completely different team came out to start the 2nd. After a tight-checking 10 minutes, the Wild looked stifled and the goals started coming. A Chris Kreider fan even went in, presumably the netminder was laughing so hard he didn’t watch the puck slide slowly under his pads.